[Marxism] The Teixeira thesis
mikedf at amnh.org
Sat Mar 6 11:28:02 MST 2004
... and let us correct you (again): the Democratic Party has no "working
class base" (support -- electoral support, that is -- is entirely another
It's worth keeping in mind Michael Parenti's description of U.S. political
"The parties are loose conglomerates of local factions organized around one
common purpose: the pursuit of office .... But even as they evade most
important policy questions and refrain from commitment to distinct,
coherent programs, the parties have a conservative effect on the
consciousness of the electorate and on the performance of representative
government. They operate from a commonly shared ideological perspective
which is best served by the avoidance of certain ideas and the suppression
or cooptation of dissenters."
And Thomas R. Dye and L. Harmon Zeigler's (The Irony of
Democracy), comment that:
"American parties do, in fact, subscribe to the same fundamental political
ideology. Both the Democratic and the Republican parties have reflected the
prevafling elite consensus on basic democratic values the sanctity of
private property, a free enterprise economy, individual liberty, limited
government, majority rule, and due process of law.... Rather than promoting
competition over national goals and programs, the parties reinforce
societal consensus and limit the area of legitimate political conflict.
Noting that "the voters cannot influence public policy by choosing between
parties," Dye and Zeigler state: "Elections are primarily a symbolic
exercise for the masses to help tie them to the established order."
It's true that many working class people vote for the Democrats, and that
of *these* voters, disproportionate fractions are Black and Latino. This
occurs as the result of decades of support by labor bureaucrats and other
mis-leaders, the lack of alternatives and the persistent "Rooseveltian
myth" of the worker-friendly Democratic Party (and you would have the tail
wag the dog: we should follow the backward workers in their support of the
Democrats, rather than trying to lead them out of that morass). It was
particularly true during the post-WWII boom period, during which (mostly
white) workers ) won tangible improvements in their standards of living
(although the Black middle class grew as well, largely with the expansion
of the public sector).
Over the last two decades, however, voting patterns among workers,
particularly white, blue-collar workers, have changed as a result of the
bipartisan attacks on workers' living standards. Significant and increasing
numbers of these workers have chosen to vote Republican, or to split their
ballots. Following Gandall's reasoning, perhaps we should work within the
Republican Party, as well.
The bottom line, as several on this list have pointed out, is that voting
for the Democrats hardly makes workers a coherent party "base," if, during
the remaining 364 days of the year, they have nothing to do with party
politics. "Supporters" or even "cheering section" is the more appropriate
term, given the utter lack of protagonism, the dispersal, the passivity
characterizing the working class Democratic Party electoral "base." The
workers who own shares in a corporation have a more active and
participatory presence than this alleged working-class Democratic Party
base. Are they the (or "a") "base" of the corporation? Should we all
purchase stocks and "go to the workers" at shareholders' meetings, perhaps
help to "shape" the corporate agenda, and build a "grassroots" movement
within the corporation?
On the other hand, it's also true that some of the "grass-roots"
participate on a more long-term basis as delegates or campaigners. It would
be interesting to find out how many and what percentage of these more
committed members are rank-and-file workers, as opposed, say, to union
leaders, heads of various Democrat-affiliated community organizations and
liberals and leftists of various stripes. In absolute terms, they would,
most assuredly, represent an overall minority of working class, Black,
Latino and Native American people, of both genders. I would also be curious
to know what percentage of such leading bodies as the DNC, the DBC (none)
or the DLC are rank-and-file workers.
In "The Lesser Evil" Leni Brenner offered a breakdown of voters and
delegates from a 1984 N.Y. Times/CBS poll which could be accepted with the
proviso that things have probably become even more skewed: while 22% of
democratic voters made less than $12,500, only 3% of delegates fell into
that category. At the other end, only 5% of democratic voters made over
$50,000, while 42% of delegates were at the upper expreme.
The true "base" of the democratic party, in the sense of participants
having "voice and vote" in its decisions, are those business interests that
purchase the commodity called "political power" in a thousand different
ways (not simply campaign finance) and dominate its policy-formulating and
decision-making bodies and selection processes. However, since so much data
is available, a good starting point is campaign finances. Even some of
Gandall's entryist colleagues (we could call them "embedded socialists")
reported in a February 2001 Monthly Review commentary that:
"The bankruptcy of the US electoral system is not merely that it is well
under the thumb of the rich and powerful and has a range of debate more
suitable to a quasi-dictatorship than to a self-governing people. It is
also that the electoral and governing systems have became grotesquely
corrupt. [...] Corporate domination of the electoral process in the United
States is locked in by a campaign system that requires enormous sums of
money for candidates to have almost any chance of being victorious. The
cost of the 2000 federal election campaigns was well over three billion
dollars, up some 40 percent from 1996, which was up 40 percent again from
1992. [...] Most of this money comes from powerful and wealthy corporations
and individuals. Ninety percent of the money that comes from individual
campaign contributions, for example, comes from the wealthiest 1 percent of
"Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin) has accurately described the
electoral system as one of legalized bribery and legalized extortion.
Corporations need to make hefty campaign contributions to guarantee a slice
of the action when Washington doles out the goodies. Hence, scores of major
corporations gave at least one hundred thousand dollars to both political
parties in 2000. Rupert Murdochs News Corporation was a classic example of
how two-party politics works nowadays. His Fox News Channel served as
little more than a propaganda dispenser for the Bush campaign in 2000; at
the same time Murdoch was funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the
Democrats and candidate Gore. That way, whichever party wins, Murdoch wins.
And so it is for the wealthy and corporate America. The room for maneuver
against the interests of capital in mainstream US political culture --
never very pronounced -- has all but disappeared. And in the screw you, I'm
out for number one culture that comes with the rule of money, the entire
governing process has become a stinking cesspool of corruption. The bamboo
prison of class rule has become an iron cage."
Nevertheless, the authors of this article hold out hope that the Democrats
can be reformed and once again become fertile ground for grass-roots
In more concrete terms, according to a report in the January 9, 2004
Bennington (Vermont) Banner by Cox News Service's Andrew Mollison "the
major contenders in this year's presidential election, which is on track to
become by far the most expensive in history, have all done public policy
favors for their big contributors during their time in office, the Center
for Public Integrity reported Thursday." Mollison then went on to list the
Democratic contenders and their principal sponsors:
"Wesley Clark's top career patrons are Citigroup, $6,250; Skadden, Arps,
Slate, Meaher & Flom, $5,950, and Sullivan & Cromwell, $5,500."
"Howard Dean's top career patrons are Time Warner, $65,225; Microsoft
Corp., $25,100, and IBM Corp., $23,250."
"John Edwards' top career patrons are Shangri-La Entertainment and Stephen
Bing, $907,000; Baron & Budd of Dallas, $408,250, and Girardi & Keese,
"Richard Gephardt's top career patrons are Anheuser-Busch, $518,750; Bryan
Cave LLP, $333,262, and Teamsters Union, $249,317."
"John Kerry's top career patrons are Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky
and Popeo, $230,796; FleetBoston Financial Corp., $182,387, and Time
"Joe Lieberman's top career patrons are Citigroup, $110,546; Hartford
Financial Services Group Inc., $83,650, and Goldman Sachs Group, $80,250."
"Dennis Kucinich's top career patrons are the United Auto Workers, $53,534;
Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union, $45,000, and Teamsters Union, $41,250."
"Al Sharpton's top career patrons are Inner City Broadcasting Corp.,
$27,300; Zoe Ministries, $15,400, and Don King Productions inc., $15,400."
Mollison also reported some of the "public policy favors" purchased by the
"From January 2002 until two weeks after declaring his intention to seek
the presidency, General Wesley Clark received up to $830,000 for his work
as a registered lobbyist for Acxiom Corp., a firm seeking terrorism-related
federal contracts while Clark "was offering expert commentary on the War on
Terror" on CNN."
"When governor, Howard Dean pushed for utility contract provisions that
"cost Vermont families millions of dollars," but pleased Central Vermont
Public Service Corp., which donated more than $10,000 to Dean's Fund for a
Healthy America PAC."
Richard Gephardt "tried at least five times to lower taxes on alcohol,
which would have helped his home-state patron, Anheuser-Busch."
John Kerry "consistently supported most lobbying positions of the wireless
telecommunications industry, which includes clients of Mintz, Levin - a
Boston law firm that includes his brother and some former classmates, and
has an affiliate headed by Kerry's former chief of staff."
Liberal Dennis Kucinich, that stalwart of the international working class
(or at least its *ahem* leaders), "has consistently voted in favor of
union causes, opposing free trade and favoring protectionism."
And "moral" Joe Lieberman: "After receiving hundred of thousands of dollars
in contributions from biotechnology companies," the senator from
Connecticut "hired the industry's top lobbyist for his staff" and introduce
and co-sponsored bills for which this sector lobbied."
At one point Julio Huato sarcastically responded to Lou Proyect's point
regarding the 'unbase-like' qualities of the Democrats' working class
electorate, asserting that by Lou's reasoning, the Democratic Party is
based on the party bureaucrats. Not so: the machine hacks, like the
candidates, are beholden to (or are) the employers. Brenner extensively
documented the "ties that bind" local party machines to capital. For
example, Brenner quoted liberal authors Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers:
"In many parts of the Northeast, real estate interests are almost
indistinguishable from the local political machines."
Ferguson and Rogers also noted that :
"... real estate developers and investment bankers are disproportionately
Democratic compared to all investors, and disproportionately willing to
support liberal Democrats."
Brenner, citing a February 27, 1987 New York Times article titled,
"Stalking the 1988 Money Hunters," which discussed Democratic candidates'
pursuit of donors, said, "Again, the key words were "real estate." There
was Calvin Guest, a Texas reat estate and banking executive... Nathan
Landow, a real estate developer... Thomas B. Rosenberg, a Chicago real
estate executive... Stephen D. Moses, a Los Angeles real estate developer,,,"
Brenner also quoted Brian Summal, a journalist for the Baltimore Sun, who
"declares that 'although plump cat contributors to all campaigns number
less than 50,000, they are responsible for about two-thirds of the total
dollars Democrats raised.' The stock market crash of 1987 put this into
perspective . It sharply curtailed the amount of disposable income
available to the upper middle class. But that didn't worry San Francisco
broker Phil Schaefer, a Bear Stearn director and Dukakis fundraiser: 'I'll
go to the very rich--they still have money.' And so he (they) did."
Capital is the only coherent force or base behind the Democrats. The
atomized and dispersed working-class electorate that votes Democrat is
> >political office. Let me correct that. It also differs from the
> >Democrats in another respect: it has no working class base or support
> >in the labour movement.
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